Bodhi Seal of the Patriarchs


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The Master, whose lay name was Ch'en, was from Loyang, in Hou Shih. He left the home life when he was very young. In the third year of the Reign Period Chen Kuan (630 C.E.), he addressed a petition to the Emperor requesting permission to journey to India in search of Buddhist scriptures; the Emperor, however, would not grant his request.  Undaunted, on his own initiative he left Chinese territory at the Yu Pass (in Hsi Tsang). I
      His journey to India took him through more than 130 countries. After obtaining 657 volumes of Sutras and Discourses in Sanskrit, he returned to China in the nineteenth year of the Reign Period Chen Kuan (646 C.E.) Fang Hsuan Ling, an official, informed the Emperor of the Master's return and the results of his journey. The Emperor then invited the Master to the palace and received him in a private reception hail. The Emperor commanded him to translate quickly all of the texts, which he had obtained, and himself wrote a composition entitled "Preface to the Holy Teaching." He also erected a great stupa to serve as a repository for the texts which the Master had carried from the West.  
      In the first year of the Reign Period Lin Te (664 C.E.), the Master died. When he was about to depart, his disciples gathered around him and recited the name of the Thus Come One Maitreya. Thus the Master passed away.  At the moment of his death, a white rainbow appeared in the heavens; arching from north to south, its apex pierced through the constellation Ching (Gemini).
      Years later a monk who wished to anoint the Master's body with Sandalwood incense spontaneously appeared. When the Master's tomb was opened, his appearance was found to be just as it had been when he was alive. Having anointed the Master's body, the monk suddenly disappeared. 

The Master was the second Patriarch of T'zu En Temple, his master Chieh Hsieh being the first.

A verse in praise of the Master say's: 

While still quite young he ably explained the texts, 

Because of his great genius and intelligence. 

He sought the Dharma throughout all difficulties, 

So utterly sincere he forgot his life. 

He translated more than five hundred texts-- 

They soar to the pinnacles of the magnificent teachings-- 

And began the propagation of the Dharma Marks School. 

Another verse in the Master's praise says: 

From antiquity onwards, in China and abroad, he is unequaled and unexcelled; 

For the sake of Dharma forgetting his flesh, he waded through hazards and perils.

The Master's sincerity moved the heavens to protect him, 

His faith and vows were enough to return the springtime to the world. 

His adamantine will unshaken by adversity,

The horde of demons could not foil his firm desire for Bodhi.

Peach trees bloomed six times in one year, a miracle of verification,

We gaze from afar and hope that T'zu En, will return to live nearby. 

I There are differing traditions concerning the Master's departure from China. For more information on these traditions and bibliographical material see Upasaka Linebarger's article in VBS Issue #13, April 1971, page 26, and the story of the Three Cart Patriarch in issue #27, page 28.

    Coming Features:

  The next issue of Vajra Bodhi Sea will present Dharma Master K'uei Chi, the Three Cart Patriarch of Tz'u En Monastery who left the home life with a traveling wardrobe, a mobile canteen, and a bookmobile. The Venerable Master Hua's biographical sketch of the Patriarch K'uei Chi, accompanied by his commentary containing some delightful stories, will be found in May's installment of Bodhi Seal of the Patriarchs.